Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

Realms of the Haunting (DOS)

83
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  vedder (20150)
Written on  :  Apr 18, 2010
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

A brilliant game that nobody ever heard of

The Good

  • Great blend of genres
  • Interesting story and characters
  • FMV quality
  • Really scary!
  • Great exploration game
  • Great ambiance

The Bad

  • Poorer FMV quality near the end
  • Limited combat
  • Poor AI
  • Grind puzzles
  • MIDI music

The Bottom Line

I had never really heard of this game, until I stumbled upon it here on MobyGames. So it was quite a surprise to find out how good this game is. It's a mixture of various genres, but blends well into a nice coherent package. The game plays in first person in a 3D world and in that regard can be compared to Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss or the Tex Murphy series. But it also features first person shooter combat which adds a hint of DOOM. The story is told through interactive movies with real actors in Full Motion Video (FMV).

The first shock was that the FMV sequences are actually quite good! It's not often that I'm not terribly annoyed with the acting in games. Although I must say that near the end of the game the quality of the FMVs notably decreases, which is a shame.

The story is quite interesting. It's a bit "out there", but it's neatly tied into the game and worked out in quite a deep level of detail. In the game you can have conversations with your female side-kick about pretty much any person, item, concept or location of importance in the game. This gives the player a lot of information about everything. There are also many diaries to be found which detail the worlds even further.

The player starts out going to an old mansion after the death of the protagonist's father. The mansion can be explored at will and is the first portal through various worlds. While the game is mostly "DOOM"-style small corridors, there are no loading screens. Almost the entire game-world is connected. So at any time the player can backtrack all the way back to the starting area. And quite often he'll have to. The only times the game play is interrupted is by FMV sequences and the odd "Please insert disc 4" message.

The main game play mechanic in this game is exploration. The levels can be quite a maze and often a lot of items have to be found. There's no "auto-map", but it's possible to find a hand drawn map of each area. These maps are a real life save because the areas are rather maze-like and huge! The player can not look at the map while walking however, so some navigational skills and a good memory come highly recommended.

There are various kinds of puzzles in the game varying from finding the right key for the right lock to pushing buttons and more logic-skill puzzles you'd expect to find in The 7th Guest. All in all they're a lot of fun, but some require a bit too much exploration to find arbitrary items. The most important example being a machine which requires 16 brains which are spread out through a maze of windy passages with hardly any change in textures and a lot of similar rooms.

The combat can be a bit dull at times. This is mainly due to the poor AI. Monsters will almost always spawn near you and either walk towards you in straight line or shoot projectiles. In the beginning of the game you only have a pistol and later shotgun at your disposal, since ammo is rather precious this makes the game a real thriller. You really want to make every shot count or else you might have to fight the next monster in melee which usually isn't very good for your health. After a while you get various magical weapons which are powerful, but need time to reload which means you'll be running around a lot trying to dodge monsters. That is until you have enough magical weapons and one is always fully charged.

The graphics are good but not amazing. There are some nice lighting effects, breakable windows, mirrors and monsters that go up in flames when you kill them. There are some graphical bugs from time to time particularly in bigger rooms or long hallways when sometimes walls are drawn at an incorrect angle. There are some 3D objects in the game such as chairs, beds, cupboards etc. But all items and enemies are sprites. Most of them are drawn from six or eight angles so it's not too noticeable.

The music fits nicely, but I think it's a pity that it's all MIDI. Some CD redbook audio could have greatly enhanced the ambiance even further. The sound effects in the game are great.

I can recommend this game to anyone who likes hybrid genres that combine both action and adventure elements. And even if you like the one and not the other, you can set the difficulty for action and adventure separately to create the game of your dreams.